This paper performs a Growth Diagnotic for Brazil. It shows that many aspects of the Brazilian economy have been improving including the macro picture, educational progress and the external front. Moreover, Brazil has many productive possibilities and high-return investments. Yet growth is hampered because of a relatively old-fashioned problem that has been solved in many other countries in the region: creating a financially viable st ate that does not over-borrow, over-tax or under-invest. We show that domestic saving is the binding constraint on growth and that it has a fiscal cause. Although things are trending in the right direction, the challenge is to exploit the current good times to create the fiscal basis for a sustained growth acceleration.
Hausmann, R., Rodrik, D. & Velasco, A., 2008. Growth Diagnostics. In The Washington Consensus Reconsidered: Towards a New Global Governance. Oxford University Press, pp. 324-355.Abstract
Most well-trained economists would agree that the standard policy reforms included in the Washington Consensus have the potential to be growth promoting. What the experience of the last 15 years has shown, however, is that the impact of these reforms is heavily dependent on circumstances. Policies that work wonders in some places may have weak, unintended, or negative effects in others.1 We argue in this chapter that this calls for an approach to reform that is much more contingent on the economic environment, but one that also avoids an ‘anything goes’ attitude of nihilism. We show it is possible to develop a unified framework for analyzing and formulating growth strategies that is both operational and based on solid economic reasoning. The key step is to develop a better understanding of how the binding constraints on economic activity differ from setting to setting. This understanding can then be used to derive policy priorities accordingly, in a way that uses efficiently the scarce political capital of reformers.
This paper systematizes the implementation of the Growth Diagnostics framework. It aims to give the meta-steps that a persuasive growth diagnosis should have, and elaborates on the strategies and methods that may be used. Rather than a step-by-step instruction manual or handbook, this paper is meant to be a ‘mindbook’, suggesting how to think about the problem of identifying a country’s constraints to growth.
This paper presents a growth diagnostic of Peru. It notes that although Peru has recently enjoyed high rates of economic growth, this growth is actually a recovery from a significant and sustained growth collapse that began in the 1970s. The growth collapse was caused by a decline in export earnings due to the fall in international prices and an inadequate investment regime in export activities that led to a fall in market share. This situation led to collateral damage in the form of a balance of payments, fiscal and financial crisis, accompanied by hyperinflation and violence, but these aspects were corrected in the 1990s. However, the transformation of the export sector has been surprisingly small: the same activities that declined – mining and energy – are the ones that are leading the current recovery in exports to levels that in real per capita terms are similar to those achieved 30 years ago. We argue that the lack of structural transformation is associated with Peru’s position in a poorly connected part of the product space and this accentuates coordination failures in the movement to new activities. In addition, Peru’s current export package, is very capital intensive and generates few jobs, especially in urban areas where the bulk of the labor force is now located. This limits the welfare benefits of the current growth path. The key policy message is that the public sector must act to encourage the development of new export activities that better utilize the human resources of the country. This involves action on the macro front to achieve a more competitive real exchange rate, improvements in the capacity to solve coordination failures in the provision of specific public sector inputs and programs to stimulate investment in new tradable activities.
Much of development policy has been based on the search for a short to do list that would get countries moving. In this paper I argue that economic activity requires a large and highly interacting set of public policies and services, which constitute inputs into the production process. This is reflected in the presence, in all countries, of hundreds of thousands of pages of legislation and hundreds of public agencies. Finding out what is the right mix of the public inputs, and more importantly, what is a valuable change from the current provision is as complex as determining what is the right mix of private provision of goods. In the latter case, economists agree that this process cannot be achieved through central planning and that the invisible hand of the market is the right approach, because it allows decisions to be made in a more decentralized manner with more information. I argue that a similar solution is required to deal with the complexity of the public policy mix.
The main purpose of industrial policy is to speed up the process of structural change towards higher productivity activities. This paper builds on our earlier writings to present an overall design for the conduct of industrial policy in a low- to middle-income country. It is stimulated by the specific problems faced by South Africa and by our discussions with business and government officials in that country. We present specific recommendations for the South African government in the penultimate section of the paper.
Beneficiation, moving downstream, and promoting greater value added in natural resources are very common policy initiatives to stimulate new export sectors in developing countries, largely based on the premise that this is a natural and logical path for structural transformation. But upon closer examination, we find that very few countries that export raw materials also export their processed forms, or transition to greater processing. The quantitative analysis finds that broad factor intensities do a much better job of identifying patterns of production and structural transformation than forward linkages, which have an insignificant impact despite the fact that our data is biased against finding significant effects of factor intensities and towards finding significant effects of forward linkages. Moreover, the explanatory power of forward linkages is even smaller in sectors with high transport costs, and in sectors classified as primary products or raw materials, which are the most common targets of such policies. Finally, the results are the same even when only considering developed countries, meaning that colonial legacy inhibiting transitions to natural resource processing are not to blame. These results suggest that policies to promote greater downstream processing as an export promotion policy are misguided. Structural transformation favors sectors with similar technological requirements, factor intensities, and other requisite capabilities, not products connected in production chains. There is no reason for countries like South Africa to focus attention on beneficiation at the expense of policies that would allow other export sectors to emerge. This makes no sense conceptually, and is completely inconsistent with international experience. Quite simply, beneficiation is a bad policy paradigm.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze Colombia’s experiences with and opportunities for export led growth. We first review Colombia’s growth and export performance over the past 30 years and find that the country is indeed facing an export challenge. We then go on to develop new metrics and apply them to Colombia’s export challenge. First, we consider the opportunities for upgrading quality within existing exports, and find that Colombia has very little opportunity for growth in this dimension. Second, we consider the level of sophistication of the current export basket, and find that it is low and commensurate with the lack of export dynamism. Although not a significant drag on growth, the current export basket will not be sufficient to fuel future output growth. Finally, we develop the concept distances between products, open forest, and the option value of exports to examine the possibility that Colombia’s current structure of production is itself a barrier to future structural transformation. While improvements in the export package have been slow in the past, this evidence suggests that Colombia does now enjoy more options for future structural transformation. As there are attractive options for structural transformation nearby, a parsimonious approach to industrial strategy, rather than a risky strategic bet to move to a new part of the product space, seems appropriate. In order to inform such a strategy, we use the metrics developed in the diagnostic to evaluate new export activities in terms of their proximity to current activities, their sophistication, and their strategic value. We identify the sectors representing the best tradeoffs between these aims for Colombia as a whole, as well as its regions. We also devote separate attention to the topic of Agricultural exports, and to exports of services. Finally, we use these metrics to analyze the list of ‘high-potential’ sectors in the United States, developed by another firm, as well as the sectors prioritized in Colombia’s Agenda Interna. These external lists of high-potential sectors are found to be sensible, but could be further rationalized using these metrics. This identification of nearby, high-potential, and strategically valuable sectors is not meant to be a definitive list for targeted subsidies and ‘picking winners’. Rather, it provides a robust data-driven approach to inform the next steps in achieving export-led growth in Colombia: which private sector actors should be consulted first? What sector-specific reforms should be stressed? How should public spending on infrastructure and training, which are also sector-specific, be prioritized? What foreign firms should be targeted by FDI promotion agencies? These decisions can be informed by our analysis and the accompanying data.
This paper clarifies how the valuation of hidden assets—what we call “dark matter”—changes our assessment of the U.S. external imbalance. Dark matter assets are defined as the capitalized value of the return privilege obtained by U.S. assets. Because this return privilege has been steady over recent decades, it is likely to persist in the future or even to increase, as it becomes leveraged by an increasingly globalized world. Once this is included in future projections of U.S. current accounts, the U.S. external position looks much more balanced than depicted in official statistics.
When local cost discovery generates knowledge spillovers, specialization patterns become partly indeterminate and the mix of goods that a country produces may have important implications for economic growth. We demonstrate this proposition formally and adduce some empirical support for it. We construct an index of the “income level of a country’s exports,” document its properties, and show that it predicts subsequent economic growth.
Economies grow by upgrading the products they produce and export. The technology, capital, institutions, and skills needed to make newer products are more easily adapted from some products than from others. Here, we study this network of relatedness between products, or “product space,” finding that more-sophisticated products are located in a densely connected core whereas less-sophisticated products occupy a less-connected periphery. Empirically, countries move through the product space by developing goods close to those they currently produce. Most countries can reach the core only by traversing empirically infrequent distances, which may help explain why poor countries have trouble developing more competitive exports and fail to converge to the income levels of rich countries.
Current account statistics may not be good indicators of the evolution of a country's net foreign assets and of its external position's sustainability. The value of existing assets may vary independently of current account flows, so-called ‘return privileges’ may allow some countries to obtain abnormal returns, and mismeasurement of FDI, unreported trade of insurance or liquidity services, and debt relief may also play a role. We analyse the relevant evidence in a large set of countries and periods, and examine measures of net foreign assets obtained by capitalizing the net investment income and then estimating the current account from the changes in this stock of foreign assets. We call dark matter the difference between our measure of net foreign assets and that measured by official statistics. We find it to be important for many countries, analyse its relationship with theoretically relevant factors, and note that the resulting perspective tends to make global net asset positions appear relatively stable.
Belize’s economic history shows marked periods of growth accelerations and recessions. There have been two such expansions and collapses in the past two decades, with disturbingly similar features. While not always initiated by public spending, these booms quickly became public-investment led, until ballooning budget, trade, and current account deficits and the resulting shrinking reserves and growing debt required home-grown adjustment programs. The huge cuts in public investment and sharp increases in reserve requirements created marked recessions. In addition, the second acceleration happened after a significant collapse in private savings, and ended up creating a huge debt overhang which has eliminated public savings. As a consequence, Belize is a country with a low savings, little access to international finance, and an extremely high domestic cost of finance. Access to finance is the binding constraint to economic growth.
We show that other potential constraints are not binding. Returns to education are low, and there is little to no infrastructure congestion, suggesting that although Belize is a structurally high-cost country, lacking complementary factors of production are not holding back growth. Furthermore, tax, inflation, exchange rate stability, and law and order do not seem to restrict investment through lowering appropriability. Finally, the country is not being held back by a lack of self-discovery. Although the movement to new export goods is critical for Belize’s growth, this process is being hindered by the cost and availability of finance, both public and private.
The appropriate policy stance is therefore to institutionalize fiscal discipline and gradually reduce the cost of credit. Given that low public savings are presently the result of expensive debt service, and also that foreign debt has created barriers to foreign borrowing and a heightened tax on financial intermediation which are key contributors to the high cost of finance, fiscal sustainability is key for drawing down the cost of finance in Belize. Reforms to prevent a lack of fiscal discipline in the future, particularly surrounding political cycles, are critical to end the past two decade’s ‘stop-and-go’ growth pattern. Finally, the government must address the rapidly rising implicit tax expenditure on investment promotion, as well as the fall in the tax take.
But these reductions in the domestic cost of finance will, as best, be gradual given the size of the debt. In the meantime, there is a need for public investment in areas such as public safety, road maintenance, and rural airports that if ignored, could have deleterious effects on long-term growth. Creative ways to finance such productivity-enhancing investments, which would not increase publicly-guaranteed debt, must be pursued.
In addition, the industrial strategy of the country must adapt to the current financial constraints and focus on attracting investors who aren’t subject to the high domestic interest rate, namely foreign investors. The current industrial strategy is not consistent with Belize’s constraints to growth.
The main finding of this analysis is that Chile’s pattern of specialization implies little opportunities for easy movements to new activities. Chile is specialized in an extremely sparse part of the product space and has a relatively unsophisticated export package. Past growth has been surprisingly strong given this pattern of specialization, as has been performance in the services sector, and it appears that there does remain some room to continue growing through quality upgrading in existing products. However, Chile has little room to increase its market share in existing products, and its current export package does not offer a path to future structural transformation and growth. Furthermore, this isn’t due to Chile’s status as a natural resource-based economy, as the country lags in these dimensions even when compared to countries like Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Movements to new sectors are necessary, but will be difficult given this pattern of specialization. This suggests that there should be some scope for public investment in the study and coordination of new export activities to fuel long-term economic growth.
Paraguay’s growth history is characterized by prolonged periods of stagnation, interrupted by a few small recessions and growth accelerations. These dynamics reveal that growth in Paraguay has been dependent on latching on to particular export goods enjoying favorable external conditions, rather than driven by macroeconomic or political cycles. Moreover, the country currently has significant room for further export growth in existing products, as well as many new export products that are nearby and have high potential. But these available channels to generate sustained growth have all gone unexploited. Our growth diagnostic indicates that the underlying obstacles that have prevented the country from developing many of the available opportunities are related to two constraints: the provision of infrastructure and a lack of appropriability due to corruption and a poor regulatory environment. The current environment is one where the only activities that can survive have to be un-intensive in infrastructure, and either unintensive in transactions requiring an efficient business environment or at least at a scale where informality and corruption is a viable alternative to institutional blockages. We provide policy recommendations that will help alleviate these problems, focusing on not only on institutional and infrastructure reforms in the abstract, but outlining a process of learning from the relevant private sector actors what sector-specific needs in the areas of regulations and infrastructure are the most important for achieving accelerated growth in Paraguay.
This paper establishes a robust stylized fact: changes in the revealed comparative advantage of nations are governed by the pattern of relatedness of products at the global level. As countries change their export mix, there is a strong tendency to move towards related goods rather than to goods that are farther away. The pattern of relatedness of products is only very partially explained by similarity in broad factor or technological intensities, suggesting that the relevant determinants are much more product-specific. Moreover, the pattern of relatedness of products exhibits very strong heterogeneity: there are parts of this ‘product space’ that are dense while others are sparse. This implies that countries that are specialized in a dense part of the product space have an easier time at changing their revealed comparative advantage than countries that are specialized in more disconnected products.
This paper documents large cross-country differences in the long run volatility of the real exchange rate. In particular, it shows that the real exchange rate of developing countries is approximately three times more volatile than the real exchange rate in industrial countries. The paper tests whether this difference in volatility can be explained by the fact that developing countries face larger shocks (both real and nominal) and recurrent currency crises or by different elasticities to these shocks. It finds that the magnitude of the shocks and the differences in elasticities can only explain a small part of the difference in RER volatility between developing and industrial countries. Results from ARCH estimations confirm that there is a substantial difference in long term volatilities between these two sets of countries and indicate that there is also a much higher persistence of deviations of the variance of the RER from its long run value when the economy suffers shocks of various kinds.